Friday, March 19, 2010

Following the Health Care Bill

I've been trying to catch up on the state of the health care bill... it's not easy. There are some good sources, though. PBS has a really excellent comparison on the House, Senate and reconciliation versions of the bill and the Washington Post has a very informative timeline of the changes that the bill will bring. There are some details there that I hadn't realized previously:

All employers over 50 employees would be required to provide insurance for their employees or pay a substantial fine per employee (though you don't pay for the first 30, even if you're over 50). Most people will be required to get insurance if they don't get it from their company, but there will be exceptions (those now covered by Medicaid, those who file a waiver for religious reasons, etc.)

The religious reasons exemption kind of bothers me. I understand that there are those who don't want to seek medical care because they feel that their deity of choice doesn't approve. That's fine, but I don't get to opt out of paying for highways because I don't have a license... and I'm fine with that. It's just one of those infrastructure costs. If the fees for not getting insurance were about the same as the cost of insurance, then I wouldn't see any problem with removing the religious exemption.

Another great source is the Christian Science Monitor (no relation to my above statements). They've always been a great news source, and that continues to be the case. Their coverage of health care reform includes some interesting insight, including the point that requiring people who don't get coverage through work to buy insurance is partially a way to increase coverage, but also helps the insurance companies as many new customers will be young people who are less at risk for expensive conditions. This means that the insurance companies will be able to immediately recover some of their lost margins due to being forced to insure those with pre-existing conditions. Of course, they'll still try to raise rates in response, but I'm seeing some major resistance to that... my company just announced that they're switching providers, probably due to increased rates, though I don't know for sure. Point being that competition will probably prevent these rates from getting too far out of control, though not as much as if there'd been a public option.

The New York Times has a nice opinion piece that covers some of the bickering that's going back and forth right now. It does a reasonable job of tearing apart some of the talking points on both sides (I like the insight about gaming the C.B.O.)

Of course, you can always browse the top stories from lots of sources via Google news, which I like to do every couple of days to keep up on the twists and turns.

There's an interesting bit on the Wall Street Journal site about how the bill's proposed system "does not adequately pay doctors and hospitals in some areas for treating Medicare patients," but that appears to be an existing Medicare problem that this will would expand by increasing enrollment. Pelosi says they're working that one out, now.

No matter what it will be an interesting ride. You can follow the current odds of passage over at Intrade, which I've always been fascinated by as a predictive tool. They're edging up toward 85% right now, but have recently been below 50%, I assume as a result of various announcements coming out about who's voting which way.

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